11 Best Tips for Growing Roses

A colorful and thriving rose garden is just within reach.

To thrive, a rose must like your climate. So you must choose a variety compatible with the particulars of your area. You need to know how cold-hardy the rose is and how much summer heat it can withstand. Also consider whether your climate is arid or humid. Consult a reputable nursery in your area for guidance on choosing suitable roses.

  • When choosing a rose, look for more than pretty flowers. Also look for low maintenance. Most shrub roses — such as David Austin, Medilland, rugosa, and other so-called shrub or “landscape” roses tend to be more disease-resistant and cold-hardy. They also have an attractive, bush-like shape.
  • Choose hybrid tea roses only if a classic rose shape and excellent cut flowers are important. Hybrid teas, as a rule of thumb, tend to be more prone to disease and less cold-hardy. They also are leggier looking.
  • Check the bloom habits of the rose you have in mind. Nearly all roses have a flush of bloom in early summer. Some then stop while others bloom again, some just once and others so often they seem constantly in flower.
  • For the best display of blooms, fertilize roses at least every few weeks. There are special fertilizers for roses, but a general-purpose fertilizer will do. Using too much can result in lots of leafy growth but not many flowers.
  • Once a rose has bloomed and the flower is fading, clip it off just above the first five-leaflet leaf. This deadheading will encourage more blooms.
  • Roses need at least six hours of sun a day, and they like rich, well-drained soil that has been worked to a depth of at least 18 inches.They require 1 inch of water per week with as little as possible splashed on their leaves. A 1 to 3 inch layer of mulch around them conserves moisture and prevents soil-borne disease.
  • Stop fertilizing two to three months before the first frost. Fertilizing after that point only encourages tender new growth that may be winter-damaged.
  • Make all cuts at a 45-degree angle, slanting downward toward the center of the bush, and about 1/4 inch above an outward-facing leaf bud. This encourages new growth outward.
  • How far you cut back rose canes depends on the rose. Many climbing roses bloom only on old wood — the canes that grew last season and earlier. Cutting them back too far would prevent blooming. If a rose blooms on new wood, cut it back by about one-third.
  • Protect most roses with a 4-inch layer of mulch where winters are mild. In colder areas, most roses need to be mounded: Put two or three spadefuls of compost or good-quality topsoil on the base of the plant to protect the roots from freezing.
  • Wrap tender roses with burlap, and tie in place with twine, in the coldest parts of the country. Remove the wrap in very early spring. Gently push away the mulch and mounded soil in mid-spring when new growth begins.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest